We started Aly on Gymboree classes at Tanglin mall about three months back, just after she turned six months old.
There are various types of classes available but only the music class and the play and learn stage 1 class were appropriate for Aly’s age group then. If I remember correctly, a baby as young as 3 month old would be able to join the play and learn stage 1 class.
For the stage 1 class, a lot of focus was given to building the baby’s upper body strength and most activities involved the baby lying on the back or on the stomach. Tummy time was encouraged via all the activities. There was also a lot more parent-child interaction as opposed to interaction among the babies (I mean, what do they know at this stage right?). Aly “graduated” from stage 1 once she could sit unsupported. So after three lessons, we moved on to play and learn stage 2, which Aly definitely enjoyed more because it involved less activities which required her to lie on her back (which she hated to do).
I’ll do my review based on the play and learn stage 2 class.
Each class is 45 minutes long, which is perfect I think!
Class starts off with some singing accompanied by actions, including the standard “welcome song”. Parents are encouraged to sing along and the kids generally enjoy this segment since most kids enjoy music a great deal.
There is the standard tummy surfing time where the parent lies down, lift both legs up, prop baby on his/her tummy, on your legs, while you move your legs up and down and from side to side so they feel they are “flying”. This is followed by a ball game where the baby is held under their arms as the parents swing baby to kick a beach ball (which is passed from baby to baby around the group). Aly loves these two activities!
What follows after is the parent sharing session where parents are encouraged to discuss and share on the topic of the day. In the meantime, the children are kept busy with the colourful plastic balls. I guess this segment can be quite interesting since the crowd is made up of mostly expatriates and there is therefore quite a good mix of people with different nationalities and backgrounds. The information shared may not be that useful since we don’t really go into the details but it definitely provided me a glimpse of the various parenting styles.
After the sharing session comes the free play session. Basically, the kids get to do whatever they want with the structures that are set up for each class. This is the time kids are encouraged to crawl up a wedge, or use the slide or crawl through tunnels or climb stairs etc. There will be plastic balls and shakers placed all around the structures to motivate the kids to crawl or pull themselves up. The parents get to decide on which part of the structure to start the kid on, depending on the stage of the baby’s development. Like Aly was stuck on the wedge for the longest time because she wasn’t motivated to crawl and we were trying to “train” her to crawl upwards.
After the free play session would be the bubble and parachute time where the teacher would blow bubbles for the kids. This I reckon must be the babies’ favourite part of the class because bubbles would fill the air and the babies are generally fascinated with them. This is supposed to train their eye tracking skills. Parachute time is where the babies lie or sit under a huge huge huge colourful piece of cloth, whilst all the parents would hold the edges of the cloth, bringing the cloth up and down to teach the kids spatial awareness and colours. Aly used to be really afraid of the parachute but she loves it now!
Class ends off with more singing and dancing!
what I like about the class:
I like that both parents can be present at class unless the number of kids exceed 10. I had ys with me for maybe 8 out of 11 classes we have attended? This is great because i see Aly’s class as a chance for the whole family to have fun together. I know of some gyms that don’t allow both parents to join.
I love all the singing which I am able to adapt for daily use, like the “clean up song” which encourages kids to clean up after playtime.
The teachers are super friendly and they already know Aly by the third class or something. It does feel nice to enter the door and have the teachers remember your child’s name.
The class is not too big. I attend the weekend class and most of the time, there are less than 10 babies in a class.
I like that Aly can play freely without me having to worry about her flipping or falling down since the whole place is padded.
I like that there are assistants around to note the development of each kid and that the teacher actually goes around during free play to guide the kids along (to crawl and pull him/herself up for example).
It’s nice for Aly to be able to interact with other kids and to learn the concept of sharing.
I like to see Aly being so happy and excitable in class :p
what I don’t quite like about the class:
The program feels really repetitive and after about 8 lessons at stage 2 I feel like we are doing the same thing over and over again. After a while, the structures started looking familiar and the songs started sounding familiar. But just as I was lamenting about the repetitiveness, Gymboree surprised us by introducing some new songs to the class last week, and coming up with really interesting structures I have never seen before! I’m hoping the situation would improve from here.
Related to the first point – there is no structure and it feels like there is no progression. But I guess it’s difficult to fix a particular progressive structure given that the ages of the babies range from 5 months to 11 months.
We don’t regret sending Aly to gymboree because she enjoys the activities a great deal. We cannot really tell if her psycho motor skills have improved significantly but we honestly do think that the environment allows her to learn more quickly. Because the entire floor is padded, we don’t really have to worry about her falling and hurting herself so we generally allow her to explore on her own during free play. She also watches other kids and I’ve always hoped that it will encourage her to learn from other babies. Most importantly, from her squeals and chuckles, we can tell that Aly loves going to class and because of that, we are glad we introduced her to Gymboree!
Tummy surfing time:
Structures for free play:
Aly having fun with the set up:
Parachute and bubbles time: